My Mixed Bag
Two weeks into the World Cup and needless to say my tips of a fortnight ago resulted in mixed success. On the negative side there are the laboured attempts of both Norway and Spain to get out of their respective groups. Norway really blew it against a poor Morroccon team and then were lucky to get a point against Scotland. The Norwegians now face a suprising elimination should they fail to win against the competitions best team so far, Brazil.
As for the Spainsh, just what the hell is going on!? A surprising but bearable loss against the talented Nigerians was followed by a shameful draw against Paraguay. It wasn’t the result that was so poor as the performance that lacked any inkling of creativity or talent. It was one of the most mudane performances of the World Cup. I still feel the Spanish will make it through. Even a point against Bulgaria will see them through if the Nigerians beat Paraguay.
The Dutch pulled out all the stops on Saturday night as they steamrolled 5-0 over poor South Korea. While not underestimating how weak the Koreans are, the Dutch looked forceful and a draw with Mexico puts them in Round 2 and a likely game with Yugoslavia. Dennis Bergkamp’s timely return was crucial in the win and he is the man who can push Holland to the final.
My other tip, England, were commanding and trouble-free in a 2-0 win over Tunisia and tomorrow face a crucial clash with Romania. It is a game that England need to get something from with the unpredictable Colombians to come. While there was no doubt that England were far too good for Tunisia, their lack of bite in front of goal was a little worrying. Paul Scholes, who had an excellent game, missed several gilt-edged chances that could have been costly. Ironically, it was he who clinched the win in the last minute. The English must win the group so they will (more than likely) face Croatia in Round 2 rather than the Argies.
Players of the tournament?
There’s been plenty of good performances so far. I’ve liked the look of Bergkamp (Holland), Roberto Baggio (Italy), Campbell and Scholes (England), Zidane (France), Okachi and Ikpeba (Nigeria), Nakata (Japan), Blanco (Mexico) and Batistuta (Argentina). But the standout player has been Ronaldo of Brazil. Even in a team playing below themselves, Ronaldo has looked exceptional. His power and pace, his calmness in front of goal, his presence on the pitch, his ball control and determination leave me in no doubt that he is the best player in the world. I still think that they will win this World Cup.
Beckham v Anderton
The argument rages on, the rest of the world wonders how such a simple debate could cause such a major fuss. The answer is that it is because Beckham, the pretty boy of British football, plays for a team that the press panders to at all times. Beckham apparently represents the future of English football. By that I take it they mean he is the British answer to the many worldwide underachieving whining prima donnas that are already in existence. He played in every qualifying game but failed to deliver a single goal or a standout performance while Shearer, Ince and even Gascoigne turned out some excellent performances during these games.
Darren Anderton has barely played a handful of consecutive games in the last two seasons but he is a Hoddle favourite and he will do anything to ensure that Darren plays in the first XI. While seeing little to choose ability wise between Beckham and Anderton, if it was a choice between the two I would play Beckham as he is clearly a fitter specimen. Hoddle is playing Russian roulette with Anderton’s career by throwing him into a World Cup he is clearly not fit enough for.
Having said that, Hoddle’s insistance on a wing-back system has negated the need for Anderton and Beckham in reality. Unless they are to be played centrally, I wouldn’t have either in the team because of their defensive deficiencies. Playing them in this strange hybrid position means that England fail to get full utility from either player. But so far Hoddle has done a decent enough job and until it all falls apart you really can’t complain.
British TV viewers may have seen and welcomed the return of ‘Fantasy Football Live’ in the last two weeks. Even though the show seemed to run out of steam in its last season on BBC, it has returned refreshed and revitalised on ITV. Unfortunately it does not seem to be researching its guests well enough. After Brigitte Nielsen embarrasingly stumbled around the set on the pilot episode surely they couldn’t make the same mistake again.
Ex-Sex Pistol, John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) opened his big mouth once too often on Saturday night and it eventually resulted in his removal during the commercial break. In his 15 minutes on the show, Lydon made comments that were intended to cause monotonous bickering with the studio audience, made a couple of threats of violence to both the hosts and the audience and constantly disrupted the show with inane comments. The show didn’t get any better after he left as ex-soft porn queen, Sylvia Kristel, totally missed the point of just about every joke. It was a great relief to see Jeff Astle arrive to wrap up the show in his normal style.
I think Lydon is possibly only outdone by Bernard Manning in the ‘Most Unattractive Guest’ category.